Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders – who was the former vice president’s last remaining nomination rival before suspending his campaign last month – on Wednesday morning unveiled six ‘Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces’ to try and bridge their wide policy divides and seek agreements between the two camps.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive firebrand from New York City and member of the so-called Squad of diverse female freshman House lawmakers, was named as a co-chair on the climate change panel. Ocasio-Cortez, who was a top supporter and surrogate for Sanders, will co-chair the panel with John Kerry -- the former longtime senator from Massachusetts, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and secretary of state during the Obama administration.
AOC later said she'll take the job:
The task forces – which were first announced last month as Sanders endorsed Biden – are a symbol of unity between Sanders and the more moderate Biden, who rebounded after early stumbles in the primaries and was quickly able to win the backing of much of the party’s establishment and rank-and-file.
Biden, Sanders, and the Democratic Party as a whole, are trying to avoid a replay of the 2016 general election, when many Sanders supporters did not vote for nominee Hillary Clinton after a bitter and divisive primary battle between the two candidates and camps. The divisions in the party contributed to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s victory in the November election.
The task forces will meet in advance of August’s Democratic convention to make recommendations to the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee as well as to the Biden campaign. The panels will explore possible policy initiatives in six areas: climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration.
“From health care to reforming our justice system to rebuilding a more inclusive and fair economy, the work of the task forces will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country,” Biden said in a statement.
Sanders – who’s urged that his numerous policy differences with Biden should not be papered over -- pointed to the coronavirus crisis as he stressed that “in the midst of the unprecedented economic and pandemic crises we face, the Democratic Party must think big, act boldly, and fight to change the direction of this country….To create an agenda that the working class of this country desperately needs, and moves us toward a more just society, we must solicit the best ideas.”
But Sanders emphasized that “I commend Joe Biden for working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction."
While the task forces are stocked full of a number of prominent Democratic leaders and policy experts, it’s no surprise that the inclusion of Ocasio-Cortez grabbed attention. As a Sanders surrogate, she was at times critical of the former vice president during the Democratic primaries. While she’s said she’ll vote for her party’s presumptive nominee, she hasn’t officially endorsed Biden.
Biden referenced the congresswoman during an interview Tuesday night with local TV station KLAS in Las Vegas.
"I'm working with Bernie and with his people. And so, and we've made some changes. We've listened to Bernie supporters and, you know, for example, we have Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, she is on one of the panels,” Biden said.